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Connecting a CRT TV to a Computer

Robert in Pennsylvania asks:

Can I connect my computer to my CRT television, to watch online video?

The advent of Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Unboxed has meant that more and more people are trying to stream internet videos on their TV. You might think that you need the latest LCD HDTVs to watch online videos on your TV, but in reality you don’t. It is perfectly possible to use your CRT television, but the quality you will get depends on the connections present on your devices. Here’s a rundown of the best possible scenarios.

1. HDMI – The newer High Definition CRT televisions have HDMI ports. This is the best possible way to connect your TV to a laptop/computer, because it gives you a high quality digital image and audio signal. So, if you have an HDMI connection on your TV, and one on your computer, connect them up with an HDMI cable and select the HDMI input channel on your TV’s remote.

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2. DVI – Your next best connection option is DVI. This is another connection that offers a high quality digital image. A DVI connection is generally more popular on a desktop computer than on a laptop. Use a DVI cable to connect your TV and computer, or use a DVI to HDMI converter cable if you only have an HDMI port on one of your devices.

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3. VGA – A common connection on newer CRT televisions, and on almost all computers, is the VGA connection. VGA cables are inexpensive and easy to find. Simply plug one end into your computer and the other end into your TV and select the appropriate input channel on your TV remote.

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4. S-Video – The final option, S-video, is not going to give you great quality, but it will work. It is perhaps the most common connection of the three as both your CRT television and your computer will likely have this option. Connect one end to the S-Video port on your computer, and the other to the yellow ‘Video In’ port on your TV. Then select the correct input on your TV remote.

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Note that if you are using a DVI, VGA, or S-Video connection, the only sound you will get will be the sound that comes through your computer speakers. This is because, unlike an HDMI connection, these cables are only capable of displaying an image. To get sound through your TV, you need to pair your display cable with a 3.5mm mini stereo male to dual RCA male cable. These are very common. One end plugs into your computer’s headphone jack, and the other has a red and white dual input for your TV.

Are you having trouble viewing the computer image on your TV? Laptops sometimes require you to switch the display mode from the built-in monitor to an external display like your TV. The procedure varies from model to model but is often just a case of pressing Fn + F8 on the keyboard. If F8 does not work, one of the other function keys will. Check your manual for the correct combination.

You may also need to adjust the screen resolution on your computer to fit that of your TV. Do that by going to the computer’s Control Panel and adjusting the display properties. In Windows XP you can find this if you click Start > Control Panel > Display > Settings. In Vista and Windows 7, search for ‘adjust screen resolution’ on the Start menu’s search bar or click Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Adjust Screen Resolution (from the Display menu).

Still having problems? Make sure that you selected the appropriate input channel on your TV’s remote control. This ensures that your TV is displaying the input signal that you want from your computer. Otherwise, you should be all set to enjoy internet video and movies on your CRT television.

~Jonathan Wylie